Why do we make healthy choices? Is it that two scoops of double fudge chocolate ice cream doesn’t hold up to a simmering pot of steamed broccoli? Definitely not. We choose to consume healthy foods for an abundance of reasons. We want to feel our best, we want to look our best, we want to avoid disease and maybe even turn some heads. Most of all, we want long-lasting energy that will prevent us from plummeting face down into our keyboards at 3 o’clock every day.
Choosing healthy foods will help our bodies achieve their optimal level of functioning. It will also help us avoid the all too common 3 o’clock nose-dive. However, healthy food choices will also greatly benefit the health of our hair.
There are unavoidable genetic predispositions as well as illnesses and aging that may require other methods of improving the appearance of our hair (such as hair transplants). The good news is that in all other cases, choosing healthy foods that contain dietary sources of minerals, vitamins, amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids can actually help promote healthy hair growth.
So how does it work?
Put it this way; if we eat a single cookie or an entire row of our favourite vanilla filled wafers, then we’re going to feel awful. Our body won’t benefit from what we ate and we’ll feel sluggish and unhealthy. On the other hand, if we eat well, we feel well. Our bodies take in food and then burns it for energy while providing the various systems within us the means to heal and replenish themselves. Our hair is no different. The nutrients we nourish our bodies with are absorbed by our hair follicles, which in turn are responsible for growing new hair. Therefore, the foods we choose to consume have a direct effect on the health of our hair. If we would like to improve the health of our hair, we should throw some of the following ingredients into our diets daily.
Biotin is a mineral that can be found in many sources of foods including eggs, milk, bananas, meat, fish, nuts, seeds and some vegetables such as sweet potatoes, spinach and broccoli. It is an important component of enzymes in our body that break down fats and carbohydrates. Biotin deficiencies are usually identified by symptoms such as thinning hair as well as a rash around the eyes, nose and mouth.
Selenium is an essential mineral that is only needed in small amounts, yet it is powerful enough to boost healthy hair growth. As an added bonus, it reduces dandruff! It also aids in the proper functioning of our hormones and it reduces inflammation (inflammation has been known to induce premature hair loss caused by Alopecia). Foods that contain selenium include brazil nuts, halibut, yellowfin tuna, oysters, sunflower seeds, shiitake mushrooms, chicken, eggs and sardines.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Healthy fats are an important part of every diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are good for our heart as well as our hair, skin and eyes. There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids; ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and each of them are equal in importance. EPA and DHA are found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herrings, arctic char and trout. ALA is found in sources such as ground flax seeds, walnuts, soy products and omega-3 enriched products such as eggs, milk, margarine, and oils such as flax seed oil, canola oil and soybean oil.
This sunshine vitamin is produced by the body as a response to sun exposure but it can also be found in food and supplements. Having enough vitamin D is important for a number of reasons, including maintaining healthy bones and teeth, supporting the health of our immune system, brain and nervous system, regulating our insulin levels, as well as improving the health of our hair by creating new hair follicles and even waking up dormant hair follicles. Natural ways to sneak more vitamin D into our diet can be done by consuming fish such as salmon or swordfish, mushrooms, grains, fortified orange juice as well as low-fat fortified milk.
This essential amino acid cannot be synthesized by our bodies so it must be obtained from our diet. It is a necessary ingredient for many bodily functions such as promoting the absorption of calcium, iron and zinc, promoting collagen growth, helping to produce enzymes, antibodies and hormones as well as supporting our immune system. A deficiency in L-lysine can cause hair loss while getting enough of this amino acid can promote healthy hair growth. Good dietary sources of L-lysine include red meat, chicken, eggs, fish such as cod or sardines, beans, lentils, parmesan and cottage cheese, wheat germ, nuts, soybeans, brewer’s yeast and spirulina. Most people including vegetarians get enough L-lysine from their usual diet and don’t require supplements.
Luckily the above-mentioned foods do more than just benefit the health of our hair, they also promote the healthy functioning of many of our bodily systems and internal processes that will help us feel our absolute best. Unfortunately for many, there are cases where genetic predispositions, unfortunate illnesses and the natural process of aging will work against these dietary measures. There are various other options to give us the appearance of healthy hair if dietary sources alone don’t help, such as various hair transplant options as well as wigs and hair extensions.